John Liu's Path to a 2020 White House Run

John Liu can’t become President of the United States because he was born in Taiwan. That’s a real shame. As of now he’s the only Asian American politician who’s enough of a strategist and a scrapper to have had a realistic shot at the job — maybe in a decade, after whoever succeeds Obama’s second term has had a chance to make a few mistakes.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve had some very good Asian American political leaders. Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, California Congressman Norman Mineta, and former Washington Governor/current Commerce Secretary Gary Locke are examples of effective, admirable leaders. But none have had the fire in the belly to claw and fight their way to the top, to become king of the hill though all are natural-born citizens.

Liu does in spades.

“I would very much like to be the president of the United States and the leader of the free world,” he told the press without the least hesitation just a year after taking over the New York City Comptroller’s job.

“I’d like to do anything that allows me to have the maximum impact possible—impact in terms of making changes that I feel are necessary, and there are lots of changes I feel are necessary in the world, certainly in this country and certainly in this city,” Liu added. “So, I will always look to see what I can do.”

That’s a hell of a gutsy thing to be coming out of the mouth of the first Asian American to hold a citywide job, especially one who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of five. And he had the audacity to point out that it’s not impossible for him to move into the White House since the U.S. Constitution can always be amended, as it has a few dozen times already.

And he had enough moxy left over to assert that the New York City mayor’s post is “the second most important job in this country”, then add with a smirk, “Don’t tell Andrew that,” meaning New York’s new governor Andrew Cuomo, scion of the closest thing to a modern New York political dynasty.

The first step toward becoming a great leader is having that will to power, which Liu has in spades. That will to power is fueled by brains and backbone. Liu doesn’t open his mouth except to make more enemies among the city’s crooks and win more fans among the city’s smartest, most decent citizens.

The second step is putting fear in the hearts of prospective opponents by letting them know that you will take the gloves off. John Liu has been THE major thorn in the side of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg — another immigrant and a pretty fine mayor — even as a lowly city councilman. Now that Liu’s the Comptroller, he doesn’t even have to stand on a stepstool to reach Bloomberg’s knees. And he’s kept himself very busy sawing away at them. Why? To show his prospective rivals for the 2013 election that if they have any thought of taking him on, they had better be squeaky clean and equally fearless.

If nothing else, that alone will help clean up the city’s sewage.

Do I think it’s premature for John Liu to start scheming how he might help Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arianna Huffington get that darned Constitution amended for their 2012 and 2016 White House runs so the coast will be clear for Liu’s 2020 bid? Not at all. And neither does Liu.